Alzheimer's, Dementia & Mental Health
Overeating May Double Risk of Memory Loss for Seniors, Earlier Study Suggests Opposite
Study released today seems in conflict to one from last month concerning senior citizens, being over-weight and memory
Feb. 13, 2012 – New research suggests that consuming between 2,100 and 6,000 calories per day may double the risk of
memory loss, or mild cognitive impairment (MCI), among senior citizens age 70 and older. It seems to conflict with research released last
month suggesting that weight loss or a low body mass index (BMI) later in life may be an early warning sign of mental decline.
MCI is the stage between normal memory loss that comes with aging and early Alzheimer's disease.
"We observed a dose-response pattern which simply means; the higher the amount of calories consumed each day, the higher
the risk of MCI," said study author Yonas E. Geda, MD, MSc, with the Mayo Clinic in Scottsdale, Arizona and a member of the American Academy
This study involved 1,233 people between the ages of 70 and 89 and free of dementia residing in Olmsted County, Minn. Of
those, 163 had MCI.
Participants reported the amount of calories they ate or drank in a food questionnaire and were divided into three equal
groups based on their daily caloric consumption. One-third of the participants consumed between 600 and 1,526 calories per day, one-third
between 1,526 and 2,143 and one-third consumed between 2,143 and 6,000 calories per day.
The odds of having MCI more than doubled for those in the highest calorie-consuming group compared to those in the lowest
calorie-consuming group. The results were the same after adjusting for history of stroke, diabetes, amount of education, and other factors
that can affect risk of memory loss. There was no significant difference in risk for the middle group.
"Cutting calories and eating foods that make up a healthy diet may be a simpler way to prevent memory loss as we age,"
This research will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology's 64th Annual Meeting in New Orleans April 21 to
April 28, 2012. The study was supported by the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Robert H. and
Clarice Smith and Abigail van Buren Alzheimer's Disease Research Program.
The co-authors of the study include Ronald C. Petersen, MD, Fellow of the American Academy of Neurology, and other
investigators of the Mayo Clinic Study of Aging in Rochester, Minn.
Conflicting Results in Earlier Study
Over Weight Seniors Have Lower Risk of Alzheimer’s
blog on the AAN website for patients, Daniel C. Potts, MD, Tuscaloosa, Alabama, pointed out in January that although ”obesity in middle
age predicts an increased risk of Alzheimer's disease in later life,” another study published earlier in Neurology suggests “older people seem
to have a lower risk of developing Alzheimer's disease if they are overweight."
Lead author Jeffrey M. Burns, M.D., from the University of Kansas Alzheimer's Disease Center, says in this study that non-overweight
individuals from age 60s to 80s who have no symptoms of Alzheimer's are more likely than their heavier peers to have
biomarkers of Alzheimer's disease.
“In their analysis a lower body mass index (BMI) was associated with higher levels of biomarkers and a higher likelihood
of having brain plaques and tangles, the predominant pathologic changes seen in the brains of Alzheimer's patients,” writes Potts in his
“Among people with mild cognitive impairment, for instance, 85 percent of non-overweight individuals had signs of these
brain abnormalities, compared to just 48 percent of those who were overweight or obese. (A BMI of 25 or above is considered overweight.) This
finding raises the possibility that weight loss or a low body mass index (BMI) later in life may be an early warning sign of mental decline.
“Researchers have some theories about why there is a relationship between weight and Alzheimer's disease. Importantly,
the relationship is a correlation and the studies don't address how one may cause the other.
“For example, although Alzheimer's is traditionally thought of as a brain disease, it may have effects on the body that
can present early on. Well before memory loss and other symptoms appear, Alzheimer's may trigger changes in metabolism that promote weight
“The relationship between weight loss and the progression of Alzheimer's may be a two-way street. People who start to
experience declines in mental function may shop for groceries less regularly, cook less frequently, and eat less—and the poor nutrition that
results could in turn accelerate the progression of the disease.”
For more on this blog –
Learn more about Alzheimer's disease at
The American Academy of Neurology, reports it is an association of more than 25,000 neurologists and neuroscience
professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized
training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as stroke, Alzheimer's disease, epilepsy,
Parkinson's disease and multiple sclerosis.
>> Academy's Website for
Patients and Caregivers
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